As the Great Hall glowed in the orange light, Lily stared in a petrified horror at the Slytherin table. Every student wearing a serpent emblem began to grow fur all over the place. Fur unique to each student's hair color peeked out of collars and socks. Fangs that were as big as a fist sprouted from their mouths. They hunched over and growled.
No one hooted in laughter. Disbelief echoed across the room. Only two boys seemed at all pleased with what occurred.
Dumbledore stood up and yelled, "Potter! Black! To my office!"
No one had ever heard him raise his voice and many students stared open-mouthed at the head table.
Lily realized what this was. Not an accident, or an unusual event. But rather a Marauder prank. A disgusting, awful, horrendous prank. Lily shielded her eyes to avoid what was happening not too far away.
Sirius and James walked with their heads hung appropriately low enough, but still high enough to know they had no remorse. Oh, Lily planned to change that.
He turned around, expecting another teacher's anger, but he didn't know the voice. Until he saw Lily's face. He cowered, that was his first reaction. He winced, cowered, dived. Her wand pointed straight for him, and he couldn't even imagine what curse she had pulled out of her mind to use on him.
"Miss Evans!" came a cry from behind her. McGonagall stood, looking equally abashed and furious. "My office." It was said gently, fearfully. The haunting emerald eyes were filled with a fury the professors didn't know if they could quench.
Lily stormed past Sirius and James, spitting venomously, "Malfoy has proven himself better than you." Malfoy was long out of school, but comparisons were still made to him. Even Sirius cringed.
James and Sirius trudged up to the gargoyle and muttered the password. Lily's venom hadn't shown itself all term until today. It used to appear every prank, but lately she had been letting them slide. Now that the prank was over and the fun had been drained, they began to wonder if it had been the right thing to do after all.
"I am extremely disappointed in you boys," Dumbledore said the moment he walked in his office. "I cannot imagine why you did this. I have never seen anything quite so low in all my years of teaching."
Dumbledore sighed as James and Sirius looked around in fear, looking at everything besides their headmaster's eyes.
"I am beyond surprised. I am disgusted."
Both boys looked to the headmaster with fear, and now seemed to be ashamed.
"Sirius, I would like you to wait in the hall just outside my door. I would like to speak to you one on one about this as I dole out your punishment."
Sirius hurriedly left, not sending a sympathetic glance backward.
"James, I wonder if you could tell me, is this a permanent condition?"
"Is what, sir?" he replied timidly.
"The growling and the hair. Is it permanent?"
"No, sir." James cleared his throat uncomfortably. "It'll wear off in about an hour."
Dumbledore sighed, rubbing his temples with two fingers. "I am terribly confused, Mr Potter. Why did you feel the need to do this? The year began to find a rhythm, your fights with Miss Evans have drastically decreased, your grades and class performance are excellent. You seem to be in a place you have been striving for since you first walked through the doors. I am dumbstruck trying to assume your reasoning."
"Let me rephrase, Mr Potter. Tell me why."
James took a deep breath and looked away from Professor Dumbledore to gather his wits. Why did he pull this prank? He wasn't even sure himself. He just woke up last week and knew he had to do something. Maybe the truth would be better…?
"Sir, I don't know why."
Dumbledore gazed at him skeptically from across the desk. "Forgive me for not believing you."
"You were right: my life is falling into place and everything is starting to follow my design. I was getting restless. I dunno, for some reason that really put me out. I didn't know how to respond. Going through the motions made me feel like I wasn't myself anymore. I had to do something."
"And you figured this was the way to do that, Mr Potter?"
"Yes, sir. I talked to Pa-Sirius about it. He was game, but Moo-Remus and Wor-Peter didn't want to be involved. Remus tried to talk us out of it, but I wouldn't hear it. Please, don't punish those two for not turning us in. They were hoping we'd get over it, move on."
"Mr Lupin and Mr Pettigrew are in no danger here, I assure you."
James heaved a sigh of relief. "It was my idea. Sirius just helped me research and create the spell."
"This was a spell?"
"Yes, sir. A very complicated one."
Against his will, Dumbledore blinked in admiration.
"You are a very intelligent boy, Mr Potter," Dumbledore said. He sighed. "I just wish you would use it in a better way."
James nodded, ducking his head.
"Mr Potter," Dumbledore began, and then stopped. He took a deep breath. "James, hand me your badge."
"Excuse me, sir?" James choked.
"Your privilege as Head Boy is now in question. Until I can decide what to do about this, you are not Head Boy. You may be reinstated, but for now I cannot say."
James coughed uncomfortably and slowly removed the badge from his shirt. He wordlessly handed it over and turned to leave.
"One more thing, Mr Potter," Dumbledore called. James turned, afraid. "I am requesting that you write an apology to Slytherin House to be delivered tomorrow evening at dinner."
"I am sorry it came to this, James," Dumbledore said. "Send Mr Black back in, please."
"Your turn," James muttered to Sirius.
"Wow, what happened, mate?" Sirius asked after seeing James' expression.
"He took my badge," James whispered, his back to Sirius.
"I can't say I blame him," James continued. "And I have to write an apology to the Slytherins. I took the fall for it."
"Mate," Sirius protested, and then sighed. It was no use reasoning with James, he knew.
"Maybe I'll write one to Lily as well. I think she deserves it," James wondered aloud in a dreamy sort of voice.
He didn't hear what Sirius said in response.
James drifted back to the dormitory, where he began to compose a bullshitted apology to the Slytherins. After he read through it, he burnt it, slowly, and began again. He tried to put feeling into it. He hadn't meant it to be so humiliating, so damaging. He just wanted to have a laugh.
After he managed to successfully complete one to be delivered in front of the entire student body, he pulled out another blank roll of parchment. He simply wrote, "Lily," at the top and began to work.
James had delivered his somewhat heartfelt apology to the Slytherins two days previous, but Lily was still steaming. Unbeknownst to Lily, James had persuaded Clare to leave a letter on her pillow. Well, he got down on his knees and begged. That was enough for Clare.
"I still can't believe he would do something so low!" Lily exclaimed to Emily as they climbed the girls' stairs.
"I know, Lily," Emily said wearily. "I heard you the first few million times."
Lily didn't hear her. "It's beyond me. Where would he have thought of anything so awful?"
"I have absolutely no idea."
Emily opened the door for the two and walked to her bed hurriedly.
"Hey, look Lily. There's something on your bed," Emily said suddenly.
"Oh," Lily replied and turned around. "So there is." She walked toward it curiously and picked it up. Who could have left it?
She unrolled it and sucked in a breath. There was no mistaking that handwriting. She read through it quickly, smiling. Abruptly, she changed into her night clothes and pulls back her curtains. Using Lumos, she read the letter to herself a few more times.
I know I made a mistake. I know I crossed a line. I find myself asking, 'Why d'you do it?', but I never give myself an answer. Maybe I was bored, maybe I was restless, maybe this, maybe that, maybe, maybe, maybe. I know for certain, though, it was wrong.
Dumbledore took my badge. I thought that would be punishment enough. He thought so, too, because he hasn't done anything else yet. But I've found the true penance to be in the looks you give me. I have wished every day for years for that venomous, painful look to disappear. For a two whole months this term, I hadn't seen it. Until I screwed up, again.
There are a million things I would rather endure than the sight of your anger, your distrust. I betrayed you, I realize now, and I wish I could take it back.
I am so sorry, for what I did to the Slytherins, and for what I did to you. I wish I could do something to change this.
I could never express to you how much I regret my decision. It's too late, however, and I want you to know I truly am sorry.
He left it simply as that. No confessions of undying love, no hidden passion. Just regret, real empathy for her.
But it wasn't me he hurt! she protested.
Oh, really? a voice in her mind replied. She sighed.
Yes, so he had hurt her, betrayed her trust, destroyed their friendship. But what did that matter? He turned an entire House into snarling creatures!
It matters, the same voice whispered.
She would ask Dumbledore to reinstate James as Head Boy. He had truly learned his lesson.
She clutched the parchment in her fist and gently drifted off to sleep.